Obama’s social militarism inverts civil-military relations in a democratic republic. Traditionally—and one suspects that this is still the case for practically all servicemen—men and women join the Armed Forces because they believe America is worthy of their duty and protection. But Obama seems to suggest that, sorry, we are not quite there yet. The America that actually is “worthy of their sacrifice” has not come into existence. It exists “forward,” somewhere in the future. We must bring it into being by emulating the self-sacrificing troops, by suppressing our ambition and disagreement and differences, by “focusing on the mission” of building our country on a New Foundation.

The problems with this mindset are obvious. Obama has it totally backwards. The greatness of our troops derives from the fact that they sacrifice so the American people can enjoy their constitutionally protected liberty to pursue happiness in manifold ways. What the soldiers are protecting—and what the president swears to uphold and defend—does not exist in the future but was ratified more than 200 years in the past: The Constitution of the United States, whose separation of powers, federalism, and checks and balances protect the liberties defined as self-evident in the Declaration of Independence. These documents may be old and sometimes “confusing,” but they have served our country admirably and are the reason America is exceptional in a way that England and Greece are not…

A nation, a free nation, is not an army. The citizens of a free nation do not always share consumer preferences or a sense of common purpose. Like a good jobs czar, GE’s Jeff Immelt may want all American to “root” for his company and do what they can to help it succeed, but Americans still have every right to take their business elsewhere. There is something undemocratic in thinking that one should stop squabbling, strap on their boots, and get to work for Obama. One would do that only if the questions surrounding public life and public policy are settled. But they are not settled—not at all. Obama acknowledges as much when he laments he is not president of China or when he says that bypassing Congress and changing the laws “on my own is very tempting.”